In 1916 the prominent Spanish pianist and composer Enrique Granados embarked on a commercially successful tour of America. He attracted much attention, culminating in an invitation to give a piano recital at the White House. He could hardly refuse, although it did mean that he had to rearrange his travel plans back to Spain. Instead of voyaging direct to Barcelona, Granados and his wife crossed first to the UK before catching a ferry over to France.
This would prove to be a disastrous move, since the ferry was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Amidst the ensuing confusion and panic Granados and his wife became separated. When he spotted her in difficulty in the water he jumped in to save her, but both then drowned. Ironically, the part of the ship containing Granados’ cabin remained afloat and was towed back to port with most of the passengers on board.
Many of Granados’ manuscripts were undated, however, it is likely that this piece – the second of his Dos Marchas Militares – originally for piano (four hands), was written in 1910. They are not the ‘Spanish fare’ you might expect from Granados but, as Granados’ publisher wrote, they are “Inspired and supremely elegant, like Schubert’s, these two military marches are worthy of appearing on the most dignified concert program.”